The 41st edition of the annual exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Lalithakala Akademi is a brilliant show of works by 17 winning artists

A man sits astride a bull, holding a tiger cub in one hand and a stick in the other. His hair is a shiny mesh of copper wire. V. Satheesan's sculpture in bronze and stone evokes curiosity, awe and humour, all at once. The man's triumphant gait and his utmost sense of control over things intimidate. But somehow, one feels sorry for him, fears what would become of him if he found out that he was only just a tiny, pretty, sculpture.

The sculpture is the winner of the Lalithakala Akademi's State award for visual art.

Impressive show

The real, the absurd, the strange and the fantastic are all there at the 41 edition of the annual exhibition of paintings and sculptures by the Lalithakala Akademi at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery. The works of 17 winners have been exhibited along with those that were nominated.

Some of the works overwhelm. One might have to trace a few steps backwards from the imposing canvas to take in the enormity of the work. Ameen Khaleel's ‘Emotional Blanket' is one such painting. Finished in mixed media, the canvas looks like a giant patchwork quilt with numerous toy cars, trucks, dolls and rattles painted in vibrant colours, down to the last detail. Khaleel seems to have been inspired by the quixotic appeal of pop art.

Saju Joseph's huge untitled acrylic and oil painting is an arresting vision—a brilliant maze of pipes and tubes on a sheer blue canvas.

The state award winning work, ‘Transformation', is as mindboggling, as C.B. Bahuleyan, the artist, has created an intricate web of paint in green, yellow and steel grey.

One could easily devote a day at the gallery, for it is no easy thing to breeze through 120 paintings and sculptures, each revealing an entirely new artistic universe to the keen observer. They have been displayed at the ground and top floors of the gallery.

Yeldose Ezhattukai's Christ is just a few fat brush strokes at the end of a burning yellow canvas. Spirituality seems to be a recurring theme with images of religious symbols appearing and reappearing unexpectedly. Pradeep Kumar's ‘Outer Echoes' shows ordinary men and women, clad in traditional Islamic attire, Arabic verses forming the backdrop. The wood art (graphic print making) won the Honourable Mention award for visual art.

No photographs

Paintings, sometimes, have a transparent, photographic quality. Martin O.C's acrylic ‘Sixth Floor' appears simplistic. It depicts a spotless floor, of a mall perhaps, with a bunch of grapes strewn on it. Shadows and lines give it the clarity of a photograph. Unlike the previous annual exhibitions, this year, the Akademi has not included photographs.

Razia Tony's ‘Upasana' has a man sitting in a meditative trance surrounded by water, fire and the lotus.

Among the works that celebrate the pure joys of art, are several that touch upon serious issues such as urbanisation, marginalisation and exploitation. Society's insensitivity to the aged and the homeless come through in many works.

Rajesh Paravoor's watercolour on paper is a heartbreakingly beautiful image of an old woman stringing together flowers. The canvas seems to tingle under the bold curves and splashes of vermilion, yellow and blue. The painting, relatively small, is the winner of the Sankara Menon Endowment Gold Medal.

The sculptures spring surprises on the visitor, appearing out of nowhere. Not all of them are dainty bronze figurines. Guruprasad's ‘Oorali', is a lifelike work in fibreglass and cloth. The work is a tribute to the Ooralis, considered the Godlike rulers of tribal villages, who fell prey to drugs and alcohol.

Awards for students

The Akademi encourages art students, too. Five awards are given away to promising works by art students. Ajeesh A. Raj is one recipient of the ‘Special Mention for Art Students' award. His ‘Slave', acrylic on canvas, shows two bulls, their skin stretched taut over their bellies.

The exhibition is on till March 18.